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The Ballad of Victoria Kensington

Written by Dru1076 :: [Saturday, 08 February 2014 16:31] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 09 February 2014 05:54]

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The Ballad of

Victoria Kensington

 

By Castor

Mucked about by Dru

 

 

"And fear not them that killith the body, but are not able to kill the soul"
-Mathew:10:28

 

Two months ago Tom Rollins had heard about a dispatch that went across the Presidents desk all the way in Washington, DC, regarding him and his outfit. How he and his gang where bringing lawlessness to the Oregon Territory and scaring normal folk. He had heard that it had made mention of his raid on Portland over the winter, and his other despicable and reprehensible acts. Vile bandits, outlaws, and brigands of the worst character.

 

He had gotten quite the chuckle over it.

 

Because what was the fuck were they going to do all the way over in Washington DC? While he and his now 120 men obviously weren't the only armed men in the territory, they were larger then any single force – not matched by the small cavalry detachment, not the sheriff, not a posse committees, no-one. And if there were enough of them, he could just ride off – there certainly wasn't enough to pose a steady threat.

 

This was, in short, power. He wasn't fool enough to take the governor's mansion, or similar nonsense. But he probably could – at least temporarily. This was power, and he liked it. He liked it a good deal.

 

He sat on a hill and watched the world go by for a spell. The northwest quadrant of these United States was, if nothing else, quite pretty … in its way.

 

He had set his boys to building a small fort along a bay on the side of the sea. A good little hangout. Not huge – maybe 40 by 40, but solid. The power of the west was that a modest size by army unit could have an impact if you let it. A couple of bunk houses. A good spot.

 

Before he considered the next step, he considered his options. He had heard about Seattle. Lots of furs, countless goods up there in yonder Wahalaha. In Eugene it was said they were building a bank. But that was the thing about having power …

 

He had options.

 

*****

 

There were two options, really, in doing this. Go by boat to Oregon, or go by land. Victoria had chosen to go by land – it had meant nearly 9 months going up the Oregon trail , with blacksmiths, farmers, shopkeepers and teachers, past old tokes and occasional Indian raids, fording rivers and one grizzly. All the while hoping she didn't get typhoid or get stranded in the coming winter.

 

There was a tale that was circulating about the Donner party, just the year before, that had to resort to cannibalism.

 

And like any long journey, she and Ann kept wondering if they should have taken the damn boat.

 

It was probably for the best. Victoria never much cared for boat travel. Which was slightly ironic. in so much as that's how her family made its fortune – boats and ships and trade runs down to the West Indies, for spices and rum, and everyone was happy. It had let her great grandfather buy a house, and had made her grandfather a wealthy man – one of the wealthiest in Boston. It had made her father sit at a desk and watch the world go by. It made her seasick.

 

Enough water. So Land. And as they pulled their wagon down the dirt road near the Cascades, she was reminded about rain. Another form of water.

 

So much rain the last week.

 

It rained over the oaks. It rained over the ferns, so green in the vales. It rained over the rocks, the struts in the roads, and made it all slushy mud. it rained over the oxen as they occasionally bellowed into the air. It rained on the fields.

 

That was the thing about it. Rain makes crops grow. That's how it works.

 

Ann at least seemed in good spirits. She smiled her white smile – she had such white teeth, which is not an observation one should have to make but she always did. Framed by her slightly wet brown hair across her white skin, after all the sun and torment they had faced … how had it stayed so pale? She smiled.

 

"This is rain, but it's pretty light all things considering. It's no nor-easterner"

 

Victoria had no choice but to agree. "Yeah."

 

"And it's pretty quick. Most of them seem to last a couple of hours, most, then something like sunshine. Perfect for giving the garden a water. I can see the appeal of this place."

 

Victoria nodded as she pushed the oxen (Frank and Frank II) forward as they pulled their wagon.

 

"This is the 90%," said Ann. "My father used to say that in any journey the last 10% can be the hardest, whether it's writing a novel or traveling across America. You just want to quit. But then there's a point where just ending takes over and you have to see it complete."

 

"This an ending?" said Victoria

 

"One part" said Ann "Then we have to build it."

 

They paused to stop for a second, to look at a valley – a large lush panorama of trees as far as the eyes could see sprouting out like green grass on a meadow only 100 times larger. That's what it looked like if one half closed their eyes. As if they were back in Boston, playing on the ground like they did as children.

 

Victoria sighed. She knew the rough and tumble men in Fort Boise, the Indians, the wagon trains, and whoever saw her – they saw this renegade mistress. This rough and tumble hard-scrubbed frontier woman, tough as any man, and wild as the Rockies. When she and Ann had decided to leave Boston and go out west – she became as the question was asked – "The man".

 

She didn't want to come across like that though. As she traded petticoats for dungarees, ballgowns for jackets, flowers for a thick hat, she wanted it all back. She knew she had found strength, of the physical and emotional kind, on this journey that she didn't know she had. Stamina and reflex to shoot a wolf, or wrestle a dying deer. She had known more fear then she had ever thought possible and seen things that had seemed imaginary.

 

And she regretted it. Because she was still a lady. She still wanted to waltz, and flirt, and drink punch, and discuss the weather as if it was something that happened someplace else. Now she was in the wilderness with only her dear friend Ann for company and about 400 dollars of goods behind her. With that they would have to build up a life. … in the middle of nowhere. Where weather was not something you could just brush aside.

 

They should have taken the boat at least.

 

*****

 

It smelled of pine.

 

"Why do we do all the work?" chimed in Henry, as he was reliably expected to do at least once a day. "And he watches?"

 

They were nailing up the finishing touches on the fort wall. The rain was making work slow but it was going. Except for his caterwauling

 

"Cause he's the boss," explained Chang.

 

"We're on the frontier," said Henry, "and criminals besides. How is it we get bosses and overseers?"

 

Chang shook his head. He had grown up in China of all places. Curious circumstances had brought him to America, and curious circumstances had brought him to work for Rollins as part of his gang. They never bitched like that back in Hunan. No one would have stood for it. It was Chang's job as his lieutenant to … .mostly saw lumber but also to deal with it like a man. He would have bitched about the extra work, but well …

 

"Less whining; more hammering: Or I'll put you to digging latrines."

 

"Just saying," said Henry

 

"What?" said a voice.

 

Chang turned. It was Rollins. He had a knack for appearing when you talked about him from out of nowhere

 

"Just working, Boss," said Henry.

 

"Oh?" asked Rollins "Nothing you want to me? To my face?"

 

"No Sir," insisted Henry.

 

"Well, here I am thinking you were a deserter and a troublemaker, then discover you're a coward and reprobate. Both ain't good things either, Henry."

 

"No, sir," said Henry. "I'll get back to …"

 

"Jim … Joe-Bob: Grab him"

 

Chang watched as two hulking men – Joe-Bob was a huge Indian – came forward and grabbed Henry. They always seemed to be … well, big and scary.

 

"Chang … I suspect we need his hands, right?"

 

"Right boss," said Chang, not wanting to look.

 

"Fingers too," said Rollins. "Thousand uses."

 

"Right boss."

 

"Digging latrines? I prefer more persuasive methods."

 

Henry was whimpering by this point.

 

"Grab his right shoe, Jim," ordered Rollins as he took out a large knife. "And thank the great Lord above that he gave Henry here ten little toes."

 

*****

 

"So, you're saying the Willamette Valley is full?" Ann inquired. "But we traveled all this way for …"

 

Victoria shushed her. After a thousand miles this felt … odd. They were sitting in an office talking to a man wearing a suit that wouldn't have looked out of place back in Boston. She still had dirt and grime on her pants, and here they where in a place that had … curtains. Lace ones.

 

"All the plots of land that are the size you're looking for, 2000 acres is hard to come by these days," said the man in in the waistcoat.

 

"Nothing?" demanded Ann.

 

That was the thing about Ann. Cheerful one minute. Loose everything the next.

 

"Well, it ain't that bad I imagine," said Victoria. "We don't have to turn tail."

 

"No," said the agent. "I could find you a smaller plot, that's something more manageable. We have some stuff around a town called Eugene, Oregon."

 

"Oregon?" said Victoria.

 

"Travel north about 60 miles, there's a small bay at the end of a river. It's near a hill with a large round rock on it. Can't miss it. Not a town as such, but i suspect one of these days it will be. But the land around it's plenty fertile. This entire area is. There are some Indians in the part – Clatchet – but there more or less friendly. I'm sending people up there. You're going to have to cut some tress down, but … .."

 

Victoria looked Ann. Ann looked right back at her. "Give us a moment."

 

The agents nodded.

 

They walked outside. Into the rainy dirt road that passed for main street in this town.

 

"What do you think?" Ann asked.

 

The agent stuck his head out ignoring his promise. "It rains a bit less up there from what I hear."

 

"You, sir," said Victoria, "just made yourself a sale,"

 

*****

 

Rollins looked at the bay. It was nice. Deep enough. There was a long cape to the north that was fairly clear and grassy. He wondered if grazers would come here some day. A town? A city? There was a natural port, allowing for a decent supply chain. Yeah … he could see this place becoming something someday.

 

Someday.

 

Right now it was his land to terrorize.

 

He tossed the little pinkie toe in the ocean. He hadn't seen any sharks, but well …

 

*****

 

They where once again in the darkness of the forest, the darkness of nature … the darkness of life.

 

"I don't like this," said Victoria.

 

"Hush. This is Adventure! You were looking for adventure, right?" Ann reminded her.

 

"Right," Victoria agreed.

 

They had spent a week in Portland loading up a bit more on supplies before heading north – not on a trail, as there wasn't really a trail after the first 10 miles. That should have been the first sign … they where passing through empty forest. And even at 3pm, dark forest.

 

Victoria Sighed. Adventure.

 

"I'm guessing in about 20 years," said Ann, "they're going to name a street after us. We're in street-after-us country."

 

Victoria chuckled slightly. Ann had gone to school for an extra 4 years, at her fathers expense. That was perhaps while she was still wearing a …

 

There was a noise. A quick noise. A silent noise, if that could be said.

 

A rattle in the bushes.

 

It could have been deer. Lot of Deer here. Something smaller. Or maybe bigger. Wolves? Black bears?

 

People?

 

She stopped the cart for a second and looked forward into the forest.

 

And saw him.

 

He was an Indian. Not a white man, that was for sure. His skin was red, as they say in pitcure books. Red and stern.

 

He wore his hair tightly cropped, and had what looked to be a sweater – something you would almost expected to see on a sea captain back from whaling. Maybe it was. Who knew?

 

And that's all he wore.

 

For bellow the waist was, by Victoria's almost completely non-existent experience, an … .average … large penis flopping between his legs. He wasn't even wearing boots.

 

That was the thing. You think you know about Native Americans, they wore little moccasins and long johns and you see

 

Well, he was in their way.

 

"Hark," said Victoria.

 

A lot of things could be said. Victoria didn't want to get scalped – and really didn't want to be anyone's bride.

 

"Welcome strangers," said the figure. He loomed for a second, a master from the mist. "Have you heard the good news about Christ?"

 

*****

 

The Indian, it turned out, was named Joseph. He was taciturn on most subjects that didn't involve Jesus and his immediate resurrection, but helpful. He knew exactly of the land they were going to and directed them on their way. There weren't many whites in these parts, but he told them that he and his followers had been converted by a missionary about 10 years ago, and had built a small church near their camp several miles away. If they could come to service, they were welcome to it, though it was in Clatsup.

 

Their site, it turned out, was basically a semi hilly forest – for now. They wanted to plant corn on it, but well..this required clearing the land first. Still, there was light enough to do some planting they realized, and the Indians did talk. They had been introduced to corn from the white man (didn't the Indians introduce corn first? Well maybe not these Indians) and found it grew well enough.

 

But it should be noted: It was a forest. No Roads. No running water. Nothing.

 

They had to build build everything. Everything.

 

"A beginning."

 

There were lots of wild flowers, Joseph told them, though it wasn't quite the season for anything but weeds.

 

*****

 

That night they setup a tent. They needed a cabin, fields,

 

"Maybe this would be a good place for fruit," said Ann. "Like Pears and such … it's a good climate for it."

 

That was an idea.

 

Now they had a tent.

 

It had been occasionally asked on the long roads up the hills – and even whispered in the quite Vales back east – if Ann and Victoria shared a bed roll in the parlance.

 

The answer was a slightly complicated no. She did love her. She loved her more then anything in this world, more then she could ever imagine loving a man. They occasionally held each other for warmth on the cold nights … but as for what sharing a bed was commonly considered a euphemism for? No.

 

And as the night was not particularly cold they setup their bedrolls separately.

 

That is, until the loneliness and a slight angle of the site pushed them together.

 

They were 200 miles away, in Indian land. But they were home. And they were together.

 

Nothing, not their fathers, not society … nothing in the end could keep them apart.

 

And Ann was snoring slightly.

 

She nuzzled into her shoulder anyway.

 

They heard an owl hoot, and she giggled.

 

*****

 

"This is a menace," said Southern. "A goddamn menace, and you know it."

 

Governor Lantern sighed softly. He was meeting with members of a group who called themselves the territorial house – though they hadn't really done a census or much of an election beyond "Hey we're some people, why don't you go?"

 

That was okay. They were reasonable enough men.

 

Except he made the mistake of inviting the press – or in this case, reporters from two local Salem newspapers, which constituted press in Oregon territory.

 

Lantern had worked his whole life in government administration. He knew the score – and even these (well, let's just call a spade a spade) hicks had figured out political life pretty well. There was two lawyers, a minister, and several farmers in the room – and they were grandstanding and preening like something straight out of Washington.

 

"The Rollins gang is an offense to decency," observed Southern "Decency, and safety, from Seattle to Sacramento."

 

Turnip Farmer.

 

Lantern was a governor of a territory. Which mean he was appointed. Which meant that probably in 2 or 3 years he would be replaced by a real legislature. He didn't have to worry about elections or the paper. But he did have to worry about this.

 

"We need to form a posse"

 

"Oh! A posse!" said Southern. "That's going to be so effective."

 

"We have the 2nd Cavalry Platoon in town. I am going to support that with as many men under the authority of Marshal Grover as can be rounded up. They are to ride north to find Captain Rollins' hideout and destroy it, him, and his gang, and bring Rollins to Salem to face justice. Does … does this sound like a good plan?"

 

Southern looked to the side. and said nothing.

 

If it made him quiet, then it must be a great plan.

 

*****

 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life," Joseph intoned.

 

"Lift with your knees!" suggested Victoria, aware of the unsightly movement that created.

 

They were working to fell trees for their cabin. They had worked out a trade: Joseph and three of his men (none of whom spoke English – thankfully) would work to help them build them a barn and a house and Ann would help at the Indian village by reading to some of their young children from the Bible. Hopefully she'd be teaching them English and religion at the same time. It was a fair enough trade, but it meant that she had to listen to him quote bible verses with every fourth sentence.

 

Joseph did know a lot about the Bible – or at least could quote it . New Testament, Old Testament – he spoke the word of God better than most ministers. However, it seemed to be often random – and often at times when he should be lifting.

 

They walked through the forest. "Don't cut down the white poplar trees," said Joseph

 

"What?" Victoria asked.

 

"The white ones. They're all white. But some … a few … are a special white. You'll know the ones when you see it. They're maybe five in all the forest, but you'll know when you see it."

 

"Why?" asked Victoria. The forest had plenty of poplars – they were carrying one now, in fact.

 

"They're blessed by the Great Spirit," said Joshua. "Plenty of magic in them."

 

"You quote the bible more then st. Francis," observed Victoria, pointing out the inconsistency,

 

"There is more in Heaven and on Earth," intoned Joshua, "Than is dreamt of in your philosophy."

 

"That's Shakespeare!" said Victoria. "And anyway! Keep lifting."

 

Victoria lifted the heavy tree trunk It was one of the strange things of her life when she discovered how strong she was. She could generally do the work of a man when she put the mind to it: lift heavy objects, ride horses, push and pull, hoist and carry. All of it hurt her. But it came to her. She wasn't a superwoman – men were plenty stronger. But she had toughness in her. Everyday since they came there, everyday since the mad dash started. She found she could lift the nearly 500 branch trunk with the help of the strong Indian – and the two of them moved it nearly a quarter mile to the cabin site – not with ease, but they did it.

 

She did it.

 

And it had become so second nature it was only in the moment that she thought about it she had realized it.

 

And they made quick work. In just 3 days they had gathered just about enough to start on the house.

 

She looked off into the far distance at the large moon shaped rock the salesman had mentioned, and the large bay near the ocean. Streets. Huh? Well. Streets.

 

Ann was sitting in the area nearby. She was working on planting a garden near the house site – she took out a Bible as they came close, though.

 

Ann smiled. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

 

Joseph nodded. "John chapter 3, verse 18," he noted as his penis wangled underneath his sweater.

 

True words.

 

*****

 

Rollins hated doing this meeting in person. He had to travel 30 miles to a farmhouse, dangerously close to civilization, but it was insisted upon – and frankly he didn't blame them. A messenger, meeting in front of his men – well, he didn't trust his men as far as he could throw them. He realized they knew that chances were they may hang someday – and buying some sympathy with the government could end the not-so-metaphorical noose around their necks.

 

So after riding half the day, and most of the night, they met.

 

Southern was already in the barn. "Took you long enough!"

 

Rollins thought he was an ugly man.

 

"Better be good, beet-farmer," said Rollins, "or you won't be serving your term."

 

"Posse coming out – I'm guessing 200 men. 90 cavalry and 110 regulars. Heading north."

 

"Right," said Rollins "I knew that – I was hearing a buck seventy-five, but the information is basically the same."

 

"They're leaving in five days time. Did you hear that? They were going to wait till the final thaw on the Cascades, but government pressure pushed it forward."

 

Rollins grunted. This was interesting and useful information. Very interesting and useful.

 

Of course, he wouldn't tell Southern that. Why put him on airs? Rollins knew it was good to have a man in the government – the government had spies … why not him? Rollins was also very much aware that Southern knew it was useful to him – and on and on in into the infinity of stupidity. And Rollins thought Southern a dumb man.

 

They had met several years ago actually in Mexico, back when he was Captain Rollins in command of a platoon of his own fighting for the Rio Grande. Southern was a buck private and a sloppy one, but by luck he managed to survive when better, more crafty, men fell to San Antonio's forces. Give that to him. Luck had won him a seat in the legislature, and who knows? Luck may one day run him into the governorship.

 

Rollins looked at him.

 

He wanted to convey that luck had a terrible way of running out.

 

Which was a shame perhaps – his staring – as he never did see the little man hiding in the rafters … the little man who saw it all.

 

*****

 

The cabin was halfway built, 6 feet high. They had spent most of the day setting up the logs and notching them, hoisting them up and setting them to get there … and it was there.

 

 

It 20 or so by 15 – not really big. Victoria's bedroom back home was nearly that large, and this had to be a bedroom, a kitchen, and a sitting room besides. But it was something. A space. And it had a certain quality.

 

They were alone, as Joshua and his men went back to they're camp. They where alone.

 

"It's beautiful," said Ann. "It's what I never expected."

 

"Your beautiful" said Victoria. "You're what I never expected."

 

Victoria spent her days building, her moments planning what to cut down what to grow. Ann liked the pear idea and, if God willed, they may at least experiment with it. They had tons more acres to chop if they wanted a real field – but Joshua said his men could help with that if they had lumber, and Ann kept up her instruction. Plans to make work, to do work.

 

It was a life of constant toil.

 

"We'll put the bed here, in the corner," said Ann. "And a nightstand nearby."

 

"A bed?" Victoria groaned. She should have to build them a bed.

 

Ann seemed offended. She slunked away out of the house with nary a word, just a haze.

 

That was true to Ann. She had bouts of melancholy where the littlest thing could set her off, cut her to pieces. She could be … .well, like a woman. Victoria sighed. She wondered if there was a point where Ann could have been the man and she the woman. She would have liked to plant gardens and teach Indian boys, while she lifted timber and worried about crops but … .

 

Well, it happened.

 

And she went out to comfort her.

 

Because she couldn't stand to lose her. She was the beauty she never expected.

 

*****

 

"5 days," said Rollins. "Not much time. Make it count"

 

"Add two days to get here," said Chang. "If they even know where here is."

 

"Maybe 3," said Joe-Bob. "I doubt that many white men could travel that fast at once."

 

Rollins nodded. "Good point. Could take him a week-they don't know even know where here here is … but i stand on sentiment."

 

"We got 118. Not quite a match."

 

"Do you think we can add some Clatchup?" wondered Rollins. "With enough liquor as bribes?"

 

"Them Clatchup too full of god to help us," said Joe-Bob.

 

Rollins paused

 

"This is …" started Henry …

 

Rollins looked at him.

 

" … tricky. But we can manage," he said, finishing his sentence.

 

"Our advantage is obvious – we have the land. And we need to keep it. How many Clatchup at the local camp up the river?"

 

"Bout 40 or 50," said Joe-Bob. "Counting the women and children."

 

"I want it burned down. As many of them dead as we can get em. I don't want them to have a base to help them that adds to our worries. I was going to say recruit a couple if you can, but i don't think many will stomach having the first thing they do being kill their squaws."

 

Joe-Bob nodded. Just nodded. Rollins liked the way the Indian outlaw nodded.

 

"That goes for the rest of the area – as far as one man can ride in a day, I don't want anyone alive. Kill them. I know there a couple of homesteaders – no place for them to graze, no comfort to their aims. All dead."

 

Rollins watched Henry. He watched him nod.

 

Good boy.

 

Chang pulled his throat back slightly, but nodded too. Chang knew that there wasn't much point in complaining in circumstances like this.

 

*****

 

The little man sat in a little house, well – a boarding house – in Portland. He watched the solders gather up in nice lines. He watched Marshal Grover – a surprisingly young man – stand in his handsome uniform. He watched the equally young cavalry captain Hastings. They were both young men and very pretty. So very pretty.

 

The little man watched the pretty men gather their forces – the cavalry operatives so handsome in blue. The townsfolk, brave men, men goaded to bravery, gather round them. Young men, old men, soldiers, commoners. Many men.

 

So very many men. He wondered if it would be enough …

 

For now he just watched from his little room in his little house. Sometimes he smoked a little pipe.

 

It was not the time to act. It may never actually be the time to act – all of this time could be to nothing. That was part of his mission. But maybe …

 

Just maybe …

 

The little man smiled.

 

*****

 

Joshua was part of the flock that came to the church that Friday for evening mass. 30 men and squaws came into the small chapel. Joshua counted them, and counted the men outside. Both, he knew, would soon enough be counted by God.

 

There were no benches no chairs to all of them knelled. There was no proper preacher, so the deacon Fafaovrica lead the congregation, lead them in prayer, lead them in spirit, fed them the Eucharist of acorn bread and the wine brewed from grapes … they lead them.

 

The smell of the fire filled the room.

 

Then it grew a tad strong.

 

Joshua was supposed to have his head bowed in prayer when he looked up.

 

The building wasn't supposed to be burning.

 

*****

 

The next day Ann was still in a bit of snit. They had completed all the walls today, which was useful now. The roof tomorrow. Victoria had suggested that they pitch their tent inside the structure – for fun.

 

Ann had cooked some dinners – they found a local grape bush somewhere, and eating some with dinner – a small fire – but were doing so mostly in silence. Why? So many miles so far, so long, and they were still in silence. No matter how little time one seems to have, one still finds time to be angry.

 

"Forgive me," Victoria said across the fire, not being able to bear the silence any longer.

 

Ann looked at her. "For what?"

 

Victoria paused "I am not exactly sure … but …"

 

And then two men came through the door. Big men.

 

"Can we help you?" demanded Ann.

 

Victoria looked at them. Both were at least 6 feet tall, and seemed as broad. One of them wasn't wearing a shirt to cover up his fat ugly belly. The second was somehow thin, somehow broad, somehow many things at once, under a thick, almost greying, beard. His eyes..they were … horribly lecherous panes of glass. She had seen it when the men looked at her in Boston, but then there were 1000 others to stop the gaze.

 

They were very alone here.

 

Victoria saw her riffled gun … right next to the doorway the intruders were walking past.

 

"Where are your menfolk, ladies?"

 

This would have been a great opportunity to lie.

 

Instead, Victoria screamed.

 

Now if Victoria or Ann were in a slightly better frame of mind they would used this opportunity. There are two responses – to get offended at ones aspersions of ones character, or to have the masks stripped away.

 

All pretense left the men's faces – though it was not much of pretense to begin with.

 

"Don't scream!" ordered the first one.

 

Victoria reached into the fire and pulled out a burning branch of cedar. She rushed at them, going right through the fire without catching flame … she rushed them.

 

The fat one grabbed her one arm and tossed her down.

 

"Spirit in this one!"

 

Victoria kicked the guys knee.

 

He didn't react in the slightest.

 

"Do you like spirit?"

 

His companion looked on.

 

"In moderation. So are there any men here?"

 

"My two brothers," said Victoria. "One of them's her husband."

 

The bearded one looked at her. "Shes lying," he observed without any malice.

 

"Paul!!!" called Ann from behind them. "Paul!"

 

That was a good try.

 

Victoria looked on.

 

"Still lying," the man accused.

 

"The reason I was asking," said the fat one "I know we're supposed to kill them … but you know …"

 

Victoria got up into a ball and tossed her entire body at the fat ones face, scratching his eyes with her hands as she did, knocking him backward into the house.

 

He felt that.

 

She reached for her gun and aimed it at his face.

 

"If you lay one finger on us … why give you a fucking chance?"

 

She cocked the hammer.

 

Then she got hit on the head by his companion.

 

"Not that much spirit," said the bearded man with the eye.

 

Victoria felt pain. So much pain …

 

Ann came forward and started to punch the man in the chest. As fatty got up, he grabbed her.

 

"This one has about the right amount, I reckon."

 

And that's when Victoria shot him in the head.

 

He fell over dead

 

The bearded one grabbed Ann and pulled her out of the house.

 

"We got a fight on our hands in here, Boss!" Victoria heard him declare.

 

She looked at her gun. One of the problem with breach loaders was there wasn't a real way of knowing how many bullets you had in the gun until it stopped firing. Ahh well.

 

She was behind about 18 inches of solid lumber. She knew this cause she put it there.

 

"Come out!" demanded a voice she didn't recognize. "We just want you and your girl to leave the area. You do that, we won't hurt her."

 

"Does rape count as hurt?" Victoria snapped back.

 

Shots were fired.

 

Victoria paused. Best course of action was to let them fire until they came inside then shoot them, hope you got the drop on them. But …

 

She looked to her side.

 

There was a man about 6 feet tall, big, strong. He had a mustache – a big black one like something from a villain in a book. But the broadness of his chest, the realness to his eyes, made him more then a cartoon.

 

"My name is Captain Thomas Rollins, Formerly of the U.S. First Cavalry Division."

 

"Victoria Kennisington. of the Boston Kensington's"

 

"Charmed," said Rollins. He had a hand gun pointed at her. "I am actually from Hannover."

 

"Leave now," Victoria said, even as he cocked his gun. "Leave now and never come back, and I won't hurt you. But if you hurt one hair on me or Ann, I will hunt you down. And i will kill you. I will kill you deader then your friend."

 

"Good luck with that."

 

He then coldly shot her in the chest.

 

It felt … it felt like thunder. It hurt like fuck, burning as it entered the side of her gut.

 

Yet she got up..,dropping her gun she started to run.

 

She ran outside.

 

There were about five men there with beardy.

 

They shot her.

 

Three of them hit: her leg, her arm, her breast.

 

She kept running.

 

Five more shots. Two hit her.

 

Her leg again, her arm.

 

They shot again.

 

It hit her back …

 

She fell … not in the end from the bullets, but because of a hill with a steep incline … and started to fall down further, sliding down the wet muddy slopes … falling and falling until she hit a tree which knocked the wind out of her.

 

She heard a voice, though.

 

"We were just going to kill you," said Rollins. "I wouldn't have brooked conquered brides … but now … now i see the charm. Your little friend here? We're going to take good care of her. Real good care of her … make it long and hard until she just wishes for death. Until she wishes for a long death. Your still alive aren't you? You got a couple of minutes … think on that, will you? Think on that. Boys!"

 

Then she heard him walk way … some laughs, some curses … some screams.

 

She waited for death near the white poplar tree. She waited a long time.

 

Then she got up.

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